“Blur” by David Shields
Exquisite Pain is Sophie Calle’s documentation of an affair she had with a man. She counts the days before and after the phone call in which she received the news that he was breaking up with her. Each day is documented by a photograph. The second half of the work compares the pain she felt to the suffering of others Calle interviewed.
In The Shadow, also known as The Detective, Calle’s mother hires a detective to follow Calle and document her movements; the detective doesn’t know that Calle is aware of him. Venetian Suite: Calle meets a man at a party and decides to follow him to Venice, where she stalks him throughout the city, taking photographs and chronicling his movements. At the end of the experiment, she confronts the man. The Hotel: she takes a job as a chambermaid. Before she cleans each room, she photographs and documents what each visitor has brought and in what state he or she has left the room, drawing conclusions about each person. Dominique V is Calle’s investigation into the disappearance of a woman who told Calle she wanted to be just like her. There has been a fire in the woman’s apartment, and she has disappeared. Calle photographs the scene and compares it to the charred portraits and photos the woman took before she had vanished.
In Journey to California, a man writes Calle a fan letter, saying he’s heartbroken and wants nothing more than to sleep in Calle’s bed. She ships her bed to him in California. The two keep in contact over the next six months. The bed is returned. The work documents the journey the bed took. The Sleepers: Calle invites 28 random strangers to take turns sleeping in her bed. She interviews and photographs them, displaying the results in an exhibit. Double Game: Paul Auster, who based a fictional character on Calle, assists the artist in her attempt to imitate the life of Auster’s fictional character. Calle documents each step of the crossing and recrossing of the border between fiction and reality. The Stripper: Calle takes a job as a stripper. A friend photographs her, the crowd, and the milieu. In The Blind, Calle asks several blind people to define what they think beauty is. She posts each of their responses next to a photo of each subject. The Address Book (much my favorite): Calle finds an address book. Before returning it to the owner, she photographs its pages, then calls everyone in the book. She asks each of them to describe the owner of the book, his habits, qualities, idiosyncrasies, creating a portrait of the man via these interviews. The man is upset when he discovers what she has done. No Sex Last Night is her video of a trip she takes across the U.S. with a man. The relationship between the two is nearly over. They marry in Las Vegas, but the marriage lasts only until the end of the journey. In Last Seen and Ghosts, she asks people to describe pictures that had been removed or stolen from a museum, then she places the museumgoers’ responses in the empty spaces. Public Places, Private Spaces: she travels to Jerusalem, where she asks both Israelis and Palestinians to share a public place with her that they consider sacred. Her audience isn’t sure if the transformation is supposed to occur within the art work or themselves. Calle:
These projects are a way for me to have emotions which I can control because I can decide in a way when it’s going to stop, whereas in normal life I can’t control my emotions as easily. I was always curious. I could watch people sleep even when their wives didn’t, because it was art. Now it’s a way of life. I no longer ask myself what I’m doing, but I’m not obsessed with whether it really is art. For me, it’s a game; it’s the critics’ decision to call it art.
Usually I’m pretty honest. I say I’m doing a series of portraits on young women. I explain that it’s about her, but it’s also about myself, and the tension this creates. I look at her, seeing myself in her and also being really into the character that she is in real life--a character that’s based in truth, but a character that is also prompted by the fantasy the photographs project on her. I would rarely use an actress to play the role of a drifter. Nor would I go and find an actual homeless girl, but there are elements of these characters in the person I find that I’m really responding to, and that I want them to preserve through the photographs. I’ve never been completely straightforward; I like work that frustrates me. I don’t like things that are spelled out, and whenever I feel like I’m spelling things out too easily, I’ll back away and try to make it confusing for myself.
Because they live in a nation in which it’s virtually impossible for a novel to be both interesting and popular enough to create a scandal, American novelists are drawn to the work of succès de scandale photographers. Ann Beattie wrote the introduction to Sally Mann’s At Twelve, then produced a novel, Picturing Will, that contains unmistakable parallels to Mann’s life and work. Reynolds Price wrote the afterword to Mann’s Immediate Family, her book of photographs of her three children in various stages of undress and prepubescent sensuality. Jayne Anne Phillips’s essay “A Harvest of Light” prefaces Jock Sturges’s The Last Day of Summer, some photographs from which the FBI confiscated as "child pornography." The epigraph to Kathryn Harrison’s novel Exposure is a Diane Arbus aphorism--“A photograph is a secret about a secret; the more it tells you, the less you know”--and the book concerns Ann Rogers, the thirty-three-year-old daughter of Edgar Rogers, a retrospective of whose photographs has been scheduled at the Museum of Modern Art. The photographs document Ann, as a child, in poses of “self-mutilation and sexual play.”
Photography: the prestige of art and the magic of the real.
Part of the American character is the urge to push at boundaries.
I can see why you’re a Miss Nude USA regional finalist. You have beautiful long silky blue-black hair, a perfect pout, and a gorgeous body. Please send me the color photos you mentioned of yourself in fur, leather, lingerie, garter belt, and heels. Thank you. Payment enclosed.
Biopic: spit-shined, streamlined narrative; caricature as character; hyper-fake as a way to get at essence of real--exactly reminiscent in all these ways of porn.
The lives in memoirs often have clean lines, like touched-up photographs. They glow in the dark. Does the pursuit of dramatic effects enhance the truth or bend it?
The Fun Effects feature included with Kodak’s EasyShare software can make people in photos appear at once lifelike and, somehow, larger than life--which is all we want from art: reality, mysteriously deepened.
What does it mean to set another person before the camera, trying to extract something of his or her soul? When are we exploiting? When are we caressing? Are they, maybe, the same? Maybe it’s impossible not to do both. Maybe that’s the truth of human relationships.
Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
I could go on about this forever.
Page 1 2 3 4 5